Thursday, July 25, 2013
There has been a good bit of confusion about the proposed high voltage power line SWEPCO wants to put in from its existing Shipe Road Station in Benton County to a proposed new $20-million Kings River Station near Berryville.
“The proposed facilities will provide increased reliability and overload relief in eastern Benton County and Carroll County,” SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main said. “They address long-term upgrades to the grid for the North Arkansas and South Missouri region, as identified and mandated by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).”
Some people have read “increased reliability” to mean that more electric power is needed in the region. But that isn’t necessarily the case, according to Pat Costner, former senior scientist for Greenpeace and a co-founder and director of Save the Ozarks (STO). Costner said the project is designed to prevent power overloading of two lines – Beaver-Eureka 161 kilovolt (kV) and East Rogers-Avoca 161 kV – if there is a future outage of the Flint Creek to Brookline 345 kV line that goes to Springfield, Mo.
SWEPCO has said it is being required to build the power line by the regional transmission group SPP, of which SWEPCO is a member. Costner said a major flaw is that the project described by SWEPCO in its application to APSC is substantially different from the actions listed in the Notice to Construct that SPP issued to SWEPCO, and SWEPCO cited as justification for its application.
Page 13 of the Notice to Construct issued to SWEPCO by SPP includes clear descriptions of actions SPP directed SWEPCO to take. Costner said the actions do not include any mention of a Shipe Road Substation or a Kings River Substation. SPP ordered SWEPCO to take the following actions: 1. Install a new 345/161 kV transformer at the existing Osage Creek substation; 2. Construct a nine mile 345 kV line from the Centerton Substation to the East Rogers Substation; and 3. Construct a 32-mile 345 kV line from the East Rogers Substation to the Osage Creek Substation.
The upgrade justification given by SPP is to relieve overload on the Beaver-Eureka 161 kV and East Rogers-Avoca 161 kV lines if the Flint Creek to Brookline 345 kV line experiences an outage.
Costner said the actions SPP ordered SWEPCO to take are substantially different from the actions SWEPCO listed in their application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC): 1. Construct a new 48-mile 345 kV line from their newly constructed Shipe Road Substation to their proposed yet-to-be constructed Kings River Substation. 2. Construct the Kings River Substation on property SWEPCO purchased earlier this year.
In his pre-filed written testimony, STO expert witness Dr. Hyde Merrill, an electrical engineer, presented six alternative solutions to the potential power overloading problem, each of which could be provided at less cost with less disruption to the environment and local tourism economy. Merrill’s testimony is a key element in STO’s challenge of SWEPCO’s entire project.
Potential for an overload is based on questionable assumptions, according to Costner. “SPP’s Ozark Transmission Study was based on the assumption that Washington and Benton Counties region would continue to grow at the same rapid rate and have the same steep rise in power demand that was occurring before the Great Recession of 2009,” she said. “That hasn’t happened. Post-recession growth rates and power demands in these two counties are markedly slower than the rates predicted in the 2008 Ozark Study. In the eastern part of the region, Carroll and Madison Counties, both growth and power demand have been essentially flat if not negative since the Great Recession.”
For SWEPCO’s project to go through, SWEPCO must first prove to the APSC that the project is needed and there are no better alternatives. “SWEPCO has failed to prove a need for their project and the only alternative they have considered is to do nothing,” Costner said. She also challenged SWEPCO’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), saying it suffers from numerous flaws that preclude an assessment of potential environmental impacts.
Costner said flaws include that SWEPCO’s proposed project will have no significant impact on the economy of the affected area. However, no data or other information are presented to substantiate this claim fully, while data readily available from Arkansas state agencies to discount this claim were ignored or omitted.
Also, the EIS includes the claim that SWEPCO’s proposed project will have no significant impacts on the environment, but fails to address factors that will potentially have significant environmental impacts, including failure to provide an estimate of the number of monopoles to be installed and provide a description for preparing sites and constructing foundations.
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